The Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club today announces its opposition to Proposition B.
The Sierra Club has considered this issue very carefully, and we have concluded that the taxes are inequitable, and that spending priorities are ill-advised.
Prop B is flawed in at least four respects:
(1) For the first time it shifts the cost of highways away from user fees.
(2) It gets nearly two-thirds of new highway money from a sales tax, a tax that falls heavily on low-income citizens.
(3) It fails to get significant new revenue from trucks, which do enormous damage to Missouri's highways.
(4) It fails to link highway spending to a coherent state policy on sustainable public investment.
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission had a chance to improve the package spending priorities that it set for the new money. It failed to do so. The Commission looked at three spending options that would have increased the percent of Missouri roads to be improved to "good" condition by 2013 and chose the smallest percent -- just over half.
"Rather than using Prop B to dramatically improve the condition of Missouri’s crumbling roads, the Commission has chosen to allocate only 12 percent of new highway money to maintenance, but a whopping 87 percent to major construction projects" stated Carla Klein Chapter Director for the Sierra Club. "The Commission's stated first priority --'taking care of what we have'-- has been tossed aside."
Many of the 65 major projects the commission has promised will continue to encourage urban sprawl. Sprawling developments cost us all in terms of higher infrastructure and service costs, loss of open space and increased air and water pollution. Sprawl further limits our transportation choices.
Without Prop B, public transit will face short-term challenges. This concerns us, since we believe the state should provide significant funding for transit. However, we concluded that the highway components of Prop B will be bad for transit in the long run, and also bad for transit-dependent workers who will have to spend more time commuting to reach jobs that keep moving farther away from urban centers and affordable housing.
Missouri lacks a coherent policy toward infrastructure investment. It makes no sense to throw money at new suburban highways until the state adopts such a policy.
Highway safety concerns everyone, and the Commission should continue to give it high priority. But Missouri should also emphasize safe driving, seat belt use, and enforcement. These strategies save lives on all roads, not just the relatively few miles that Prop B will rebuild.
The Sierra Club will work to see that transportation funding is a campaign issue in the November elections, and that next year's General Assembly does indeed address this important need.
Missouri should invest more funding in improving the conditions of Missouri roads and improving our public transportation, but it needs to invest wisely. Prop B is a bad deal for Missouri. Missourians must demand that our decision-makers do better. We believe the way to do that is to vote NO on Proposition B on August 6.
For further information: Call Carla Klein, (573) 815-9250